No Sports Betting or Fantasy Sports for Louisiana in 2019
The drama surrounding Louisiana’s attempt to legalize sports betting and fantasy sports has been unlike anything we’ve seen in the country to date. Since PASPA was overturned 13 months ago, dozens of states have moved toward legalizing sports betting with at least seven states already taking sports bets. Unfortunately, despite a last-minute resurrection of a sports betting bill, Thursday’s rejection by state lawmakers means that Louisiana will be without sports betting for at least the next year. And fantasy sports could be two years out before lawmakers get things approved.
Making Sense of What Happened
Louisiana’s sports betting soap opera has been head-spinning at times. There was a huge push to get sports betting approved, but lawmakers initially rejected the bills, stripped them down to a shell, then added so many amendments that nobody wanted to support them. It seemed like all hope was lost.
With only a few days left in this year’s legislative session, the Senate tried to save the efforts of legal sports gambling by allowing a hitchhiker amendment. Additionally, some lawmakers were trying to get sports betting attached to fantasy sports bills.
For non-politicians, the bills and amendments at the center of attention became convoluted and difficult to understand.
At the heart of the matter was the debate over attaching sports betting with a fantasy sports bill. Supporters of each bill (HB459 and SB153) were at odds with each other and with the general detractors of sports betting and fantasy gaming. Ultimately, time ran out on the session before things could get resolved.
Details About House Bill 459
HB459 was originally intended as a regulatory bill for fantasy sports. Instead, it received a last-minute amendment to add in the sports gambling legislation from a measure that got set aside last week. Representative Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge) sponsored HB459 and didn’t want any sports betting wording attached to his bill. He said last week that by attaching the controversial bill to his fantasy sports bill, it will make it a lot harder to get passed.
The original HB459 would set up the taxation and regulatory framework for fantasy sports. The activity was voted on last year in the state where 47 out of 64 parishes approved the allowance of fantasy sports games in Louisiana. Until the regulatory and taxing mechanics are laid out, though, fantasy sports can’t be played.
The amendment meant the daily fantasy sports legislation would allow bettors to place wagers on sporting events at any of Louisiana’s 20 casinos. That wording was taken from , which was involuntarily deferred last week in Louisiana’s House.
It should be noted that the Senate has already approved sports gambling with a vote of 24-15 on April 30th, but the back-and-forth of legislative tricks has kept the full House from voting on legalizing the activity.
Senate Bill 153
SB 153 was sponsored by Senator Danny Martiny (R-Metairie). It went to a fifth hearing in the House Appropriations Committee where it was loaded with a ton of amendments that the casino industry didn’t like, so the committee voted to involuntarily defer the measure. However, Martiny would not give up on his efforts to legalize sports betting in Louisiana. That’s why he also tried to get sports betting attached to the fantasy gaming bill.
What They’re Saying About the Failed Legislation
Because the members of the state’s legislature could not agree, voters won’t even have a chance to vote on sports betting this year. According to the Advocate, it’s an issue that Senator Gary Smith expressed his frustrations over:
“I think the public has a right to have a say on sports betting. Without doing that, we’re holding Louisiana back, considering our competitors to the east and the north.”
Speaking of voters, residents of 47 parishes Louisiana had voted last November to allow fantasy sports in their districts. However, voters won’t be able to participate in fantasy games because the state legislature failed to set the rules and tax rates before the session ran out. Now, fantasy sports proponents will have to wait until 2021 before lawmakers rule on the tax rate for any gaming bills.
Local news WWLTV reported that Ryan Berni, a spokesperson for Fairness for Fantasy Sports Louisiana, commented on how the state’s lawmakers failed to uphold the desire of the voters:
“Very, very disappointing. I’m especially sad for the voters of the state who voted for this. The Legislature did not uphold the will of the voters.”
In the end, disappointment is the best way to sum up Louisiana’s attempts to legalize sports betting. It was the most befuddled and bumbling process that we’ve seen of any state since SCOTUS overturned PASPA in May 2018.
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